Friday, 9 July 1999

In yesterday's report, I said that some of the folks who didn't go to Bratislava had more adventures than those who did. Just before the buses left, Marge Hester went down to a market to get some water, cough drops, and the like; while she was deeply immersed in studying the labels on her purchases, a robbery was going on right next to her! She didn't realize that was what had happened until a couple of hours later; the police arrived and kept her there as a witness, but none of them spoke English, and so she didn't know why they were detaining her until they brought somebody in who did! Needless to say, she wasn't able to give them a description; she thought the robber was just an annoyed customer yelling at the cashier (in German), and ignored him. So she was none the worse for wear, though she did miss the day trip across the border, and Pam Kuch suggested I give the tale of her detention by the police the title of "Marge at Large".

Another who didn't make it to Bratislava was Bill Fee, who had left his passport back at the hotel and was stopped at the border. While the rest of us went on to our appointment in Bratislava, he tried to get on a bus back to Vienna, but he had a heck of a time finding anyone who spoke English. Eventually he got pointed toward a bus leaving from the Slovakia side of the border, went over there without being challenged for a passport, found somebody to tell him the fare, and drove back over the border and to Vienna, again without being asked for the passport that had caused him the trouble in the first place. Go figure. Then after he got back to Vienna, he took a cab to the Rosen-Hotel--but the cabbie took him to the wrong one! (It's a chain--we're staying in one in Salzburg starting tomorrow night too.) The hotel staff pointed him to a bus that would take him back to our hotel, and eventually he washed up at the Cafe Montpti just down the hill and sat down to recover his wits--and who should he run into there but Marge! "Two lost souls / on the highway of life" ... Most of the group took a bus ride this morning up through the Vienna Woods, and both of them told us their tales, suitably embellished.

Monument in Baden

We had light rain most of the day, so I don't have a lot of panoramic shots from the bus ride; however, the Vienna Woods were certainly restful to ride through, and we stopped for an hour or so at Baden before returning. Without a local tour guide, I have to rely on my own limited command of German and Latin to translate labels on monuments; I think that this one, in the city center of Baden, was raised in gratitude for deliverance from pestilence. The bronze ovals at the base depict biblical scenes of deliverance and healing: Noah's ark, the bronze serpent Moses made, Jesus healing a leper, and I think the nearest one in the photo (not that you can see it at this resolution!) depicts Lot's family bailing out of Sodom. There was also a large park, the Doblhoffpark, with a lake full of ducks and rental boats and a biergarten on the shore; it was home to an extensive Rosarium, a collection of different varieties of rose. The town was a nice peaceful place to get an apfelstrudel and coffee.

The afternoon, and for those who didn't go to the Vienna Woods the morning too, was free to make one last pass through Vienna. Some who didn't go to the Schönbrunn Palace on Wednesday went today; some took a tour through the City Opera; and some went to other museums that sounded interesting, like the clock museum Ray Russell told me about. But I went to the Hofburg Palace, the former seat of imperial government, and I don't regret it; there were some wonderful things to see there.


This is the Michaelerplatz, on one side of the Hofburg; note all the horse-drawn carriages lined up like taxis. The sculptures you can see are of some of Hercules' labors (taming Cerberus, slaying the Hydra, ...); the "Michael" in the name refers to the church of St. Michael, behind me as I took this photo.

Titans (?)

This is a sculpture to one side of the Michaelerplatz; I just wanted to show you the expressions on these guys' faces! Above the top of the photo is a classical deity or hero; from the presence of his symbol the eagle, I conjecture that this was Zeus rolling the Titans (there were no labels, and I didn't have a guidebook).


This is the front of the Hofburg as seen from the Heldenplatz, the Plaza of Heroes. There were more museums inside than you could see in a week, let alone a couple of hours; I went to three that all were somewhat collocated. The first showed the imperial collection of (mostly hunting and ceremonial) arms and armor; this contained everything from jousting gear to battle armor and swords to a totally impractical sword with a hilt made from branching red coral--too fragile to use, but (so it was thought) beneficial for protection against the Evil Eye (again, I'm relying on my own translation of an exhibit label in German here ...). The second focused on old musical instruments, and had a variety of stringed, woodwind, percussion, brass, and keyboard instruments to rival the one that impressed me so much when I last visited the Deutsches Museum in Munich (which we'll get a chance to see next week). The only thing I think the Deutsches Museum definitely had them beat on was their collection of bagpipes, called in German by the rather rude name "dudelsack". Finally, there was a collection of antiquities from ongoing excavations at Ephesus and Samothrace, mostly the former; this is the same Ephesus that housed the temple of Artemis, one of the wonders of the ancient world, and whose citizens rioted when Paul came to town and "dissed" their goddess.

Inside the Hofburg

This photo gives some idea of what the inside of the Hofburg looks like: magnificent galleries with columns and paintings on the wall and vaults and chandeliers overhead (though the side rooms were less grand, of course), with the exhibits displayed amidst plenty of room to walk around and view them from different angles. Like many museums in grand old cities like this, it was quite an overload; one really would like to have some days to look at everything (and translate the labels!) at leisure. When I was in Munich for three months in 1994, I spent the equivalent of a solid working week (during evenings and weekends) in the Deutsches Museum, and I could easily have spent more time there; this city's museums don't appear to be any less involving.

I had skipped lunch in favor of walking about, so I was pretty hungry when I left the Hofburg, and dinner was still a couple of hours away, so I got a snack at a stand near the subway station. They have an interesting take on the idea of a "hot dog": they cut the end off a regular unsliced roll (like we'd use for a sub), stick it lengthwise on a fat spike to toast it, then put a length of sausage (or two, if the sausage is small in diameter) into the hole, along with mustard, catsup, whatever. Since the hole doesn't go all the way through the bread, it's neater than our "open-faced" hot dogs. Just a clever bit of industrial engineering, I thought...

At the Weinschlössl in Grinzing

In the evening we gathered for dinner in the village of Grinzing just outside town, in the Weinschlössl restaurant, where we were entertained by a combo of violin, accordion, and soprano. As you might expect from our group, there was some dancing in the aisles and singing along; here Lois Bourgon accompanies the singer in the Merry Widow Waltz. I for one am going to turn in as early as I can after returning from dinner, since we have to hit the road pretty early in order to keep some fixed appointments at the Abbey of Melk and our boat ride along the Danube.

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new 9 July 1999, updated 13 July 1999